Affair at Cassville



On May 19, 1864, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston tricked Union General William T. Sherman into dividing his forces at Adairsville and sending the XXIII corps under John M. Schofield across the Gravelly Plateau to Cassville.


Johnston placed Leonidas Polk´s corps behind Two Run Creek northwest of Cassville to oppose Schofield in front as he began crossing the creek.


Johnston then sent John B. Hood´s corps northward along Spring Place Road, to ambush Schofield in the left flank as he marched from Adairsville.


Edward M. McCook´s division of union cavalry was sent to threaten the railroad south of Cassville, and accidently encountered the rear of Hood´s column as it marched northward. Hood, believing he was attacked by a much larger forced, changed front and faced east, to oppose another possible attack, and was unable to ambush Schofield in accordance with Johnston´s plan.


When Hood´s ambush failed, Johnston retired the army to a strong position on a ridge east of Cassville and prepared to give battle. But on the evening of May 19, corps corps commanders Hood and Polk informed Johnston they felt the position untenable and urged him to withdraw.


Johnston later wrote, "although the position was the best we had occupied, I therefore yielded and the army crossed the Etowah River on the 20th - a step I have regretted ever since."



In his Official Report, General Johnston (CSA), describes the events as follows:


At Adairsville (about midway), on the 17th, Polk's cavalry, under Brigadier-General Jackson, met the army, and Hardee after severe skirmishing checked the enemy. At this point, on the 18th, Polk's and Hood's corps took the direct road to Cassville, Hardee's that by Kingston. About half the Federal army took each road. French's division having joined Polk's corps on the 18th, on the morning of the 19th, when half the Federal army was near Kingston, the two corps at Cassville were ordered to advance against the troops that had followed them from Adairsville, Hood's leading on the right. When this corps had advanced some two miles one of his staff officers reported to Lieutenant-General Hood that the enemy was approaching on the Canton road, in rear of the right of our original position. He drew back his troops and formed them across that road. When it was discovered that the officer was mistaken, the opportunity had passed, by the near approach of the two portions of the Federal army. Expecting to be attacked I drew up the troops in what seemed to me an excellent position--a bold ridge immediately in rear of Cassville, with an open valley before it. The fire of the enemy's artillery commenced soon after the troops were formed, and continued until night. Soon after dark Lieutenant-Generals Polk and Hood together expressed to me decidedly the opinion formed upon the observation of the afternoon, that the Federal artillery would render their positions untenable the next day, and urged me to abandon the ground immediately and cross the Etowah. Lieutenant-General Hardee, whose position I thought weakest, was confident that he could hold it. The other two officers were so earnest, however, and so unwilling to depend on the ability of their corps to defend the ground, that I yielded, and the army crossed the Etowah on the 20th, a step which I have regretted ever since. Wheeler's cavalry was placed in observation above and Jackson's below the railroad. [1]




  1. The War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies, Volume XXXVIII; Part 3, Operational Report 597; pp 704